There is a neat article from the Globe and Mail about the fact that we still aren't skimping when it comes to our pets even with the downturn in the economy. I'd agree with that.
Woof? There's no recession nipping at our heels
If Scarlet and Molly have noticed any dip in their personal economies, it's only because fresh salmon is getting harder to find.
The boisterous dogs still get their daily raw beef bones, and their owner treats them to occasional doggy Caesars and lattes. But tinned salmon has superseded the fresh variety.
“I mix it with eggs, because eggs are cheaper,” said owner Susie Horvat, who has cut back on her own food, buying fruit and vegetables only on special and sticking to the bargain racks. “Scarlet likes boiled, and Molly likes scrambled with lots of butter.”
Doggie daycare, is still seen as essential in urban areas.
In dog-mad Toronto, few pet owners are critically eyeing their pooch's lifestyles and wondering if it's time to cut back.
But if owners decide to shorten their spending leashes, a plethora of stores and service providers would be affected, from doggie daycare centres and mobile pet groomers, to ostrich-leather-collar manufacturers and pet couture designers.
“It's still too early to say it's going badly. It has slowed, but not terribly,” said Pauline Lau, owner of Bobo Canada Fine Boutique and “parent” to pampered pooch Bobo.
Ms. Lau opened her second store in Leslieville on Jan. 18, as both a snowstorm and an economic tempest bore down.
While sales of luxury items and non-essentials have dropped, Ms. Lau said it's unlikely pet owners will cut back completely. She remains upbeat about the new store's future.
“People will still buy [treats], but maybe not as much as before,” she said. “Parents don't cut back kids' stuff. For us pet owners, or pet mommies and daddies, [we'll] continue with good quality food and treats.”
Dog daycare remains stable, thanks to the proliferation of dog-friendly condos and the relatively stable Toronto work force.
For the excited dogs bounding around the Umbrella Pet Services play room – just below the downtown west store – that means little change to their routine. Some owners have cut back to half-daycare, but few are pulling out altogether.
“It's a necessity,” Umbrella co-owner Joanne Gourley said. “They need us just like we need them.”
When it comes to appearances, though, some owners aren't quite as breezy with their cash.
Just as hairdressers have noticed people delaying their cuts, pet owners are putting off regular grooming visits.
And luxury pet clothing has lost some of its sheen.
Rufhaus K9 Couture is a three-year-old Toronto company that makes designer dog coats that are sold in Canada, the United States and Europe for $150 to $240.
In response to a slowdown in orders from the United States and a less-intense drop in local sales, the company will soon have its first sale to move extra stock.
“It was a tough call to make,” co-owner Katina Constantinou said. “We've never, ever done a sale. We've never really needed to. … [but] we don't want to lose business, and we don't want to fall off the map, and we want people to enjoy our products.”
The triple-layered, locally made jackets are a luxury, Ms. Constantinou said, but not everyone balks at the price tag. “If they want our product, they want our product. What we offer is hard to find,” she said.
Still, for a short time, subscribers to the company's mailing list could score an unexpected bargain, and Ms. Constantinou is now working on a cheaper line of products for next winter
There won't be any price slashing at ultra high-end pet accessory company Hartman & Rose. The Ancaster-based company sells its Italian-leather, Canadian-made collars and leashes at Nordstroms in the United States, and is now in negotiations with Saks Fifth Avenue. Hartman & Rose also makes exotic leather products by request.
At this end of the market, the only way is up. Customers are looking for new ways to splurge on their pets, and the local, elite appeal of Hartman & Rose is winning fans.
“There's Prada and then there's Payless. We're definitely not a Payless market,” owner Steven Holbrook said.
“Rather than go out for dinner, they're still pampering and spoiling their pets, more so than themselves.”
Mr. Holbrook questions the longevity of other “luxury” items, like wine and beer for dogs, but says leashes and collars are a necessity – even if they are studded with Canadian-made jewels.
“There's a market for everything. It's how you advertise and market,” he said.
Expect no such luxuries for Avery, a Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever. He may be getting fewer walks with a paid dog walker, but his owner won't scrimp on his favourite treats and quality food.
“I'll go without, not him,” said owner Lisa Brown as she took Avery for an icy morning walk.
Ms. Brown trimmed her entertainment budget after a job change cut her income, but she's making sure Avery won't go without.
“I don't think people cut back on animals. It's like kids,” she said. “His life hasn't been affected.”